How Much Wind Can a Tent Withstand

Nestled by the fire with the ones you love, camping is a rewarding experience that is great for the whole family. That is, if you are prepared for any weather that is to come. No one wants terrifying winds to ruin their much-anticipated camping trip. Just how much wind can a tent withstand?

A typical, good quality tent should be able to withstand winds of about 30 mph without damage if oriented and secured properly. Lighter tents, low quality tents and tents without guy lines may collapse at 15 mph. Sustained winds in excess of 50 mph are highly likely to damage most 3 season tents. 4 season mountaineering tents are generally designed to handle the harshest conditions and may resist extreme winds of 70+ mph. Aerodynamic tents with more guy lines will do better than cabin tents with fewer guy lines. The wind breaks around of your campsite play a major role as well.

To better understand when winds can become problematic while camping, continue reading below.

A Good Quality Tent Should Withstand 30 mph Winds

Here is an example of a common tent in “30 mph” wind. The tent appears to take this wind speed fairly well:

These are marketed as durable backpacking tents and appear to fail at about 35 mph. Note there are no additional guy lines on these:

Cheap Tents Can Struggle in 20 mph Winds

In this video, you can see some cheaper tents failing in “20 mph” winds:

50 mph is Where Things Can Get Out of Control Quickly

This test gives you a sense of the impact of various sustained wind speeds. You can see that about a sustained 50 mph (80 kmph) wind is highly likely to cause some immediate damage and a 60 mph wind can instantly flatten a typical 3 season tent, even with guy lines.

If Buying an Inflatable Tent, Choose Wisely

Even expensive 3 season tents will collapse in 55 mph winds as seen here, especially the inflatable ones that seem to be popular in the UK:

Guy Lines Make a Difference

In this and the previous video, you can see the difference numerous guy lines make in 50 mph winds, even with the inflatable beams of this tent. Cars are acting as wind breaks for some of these tents.

4 Season Mountaineering Tents Have Wind-Resistant Features

This is what “100+ mph” looks like on a tent. Note the 1) Low, symmetrical aerodynamic profile, 2) the crossed pole / geodesic structure, 3) the many guy lines:

Here is another 3-4 season tent taking “80 to 100 mph winds”:

How Much Wind Can a Tent Withstand?

As you can see from the videos above, the wind tolerance of a tent can vary widely. It does appear that most good quality tents are designed to withstand winds of up to about 30 mph when secured properly. This assumes that the tent is in an exposed area like a field or beach with no natural or man-made wind breaks. 50 mph is where you are bound to see a high probability of damage on all but the most durable tents.

What Kind of Tent is Best Against High Winds?

The videos above also demonstrate the type of 4 season mountaineering and somewhat larger basecamp tents that are designed to handle the extreme winds that you might expect on a mountain top. These tents are not the typical roomy family-sized tents and tend to be quite expensive. Mountaineering tents typically run between $500 and $2,000. There are also larger and extremely heavy 4 season canvas wall tents that are quite durable, but are similarly expensive. If such an investment is not within your budget, the next section of this articles suggests some ways to improve the wind resistance of any tent.

How Can I Improve the Wind Resistance of My Tent?

There are several things that you can do to improve your tent’s chances in high winds:

Tip #1: Choose a Sheltered Campsite

Reducing your exposure to wind is the first step in minimizing its impact on your trip. Established campsites often have a natural windbreak like trees or hills. Cars and other tents can also provide some wind protection. In the mountains, descending to lower altitudes is often helpful in reducing wind exposure.

This video probably demonstrates the importance of a sheltered campsite as much as the quality of Kelty products (which are often a great budget buy). Notice the hill and trees around the tent. This set up reminds me of camping in the Tetons and listening to intense howling winds beyond the small hill sheltering our family tent.

Tip #2: Orient Your Door Away from the Wind

Most of the most durable tents have an intended teardrop aerodynamic direction, with the rear of the tent facing the wind. If you face your tent toward the wind in extreme conditions, the zippers can actually blow open and you will not be able to close them:

These 4 season mountaineering tent was tested at up to 87 mph. Notice how the max tested speeds change with less aerodynamic situations. The direction of the wind and the complete (front + back) aerodynamic profile play a big role in determining the force of the wind, just as they do for a car.

Tip #3: Upgrade or Reinforce Your Tent Poles and Stakes

Upgrading key components of your tent’s high wind performance closer to that of the mountaineering tents mentioned above. Here are some ideas:

  • Replace fiberglass poles with thick, DAC aluminum poles
  • Replace skinny short stakes / pegs with broad and long aluminum stakes like the MSR Groundhogs
  • Make creative reinforcements to your tent’s weak points (see below)

Be prepared to fix tent poles with splints and tears with tape. Some tents come with repair kits. Duct tape or tenacious tape work well in a pinch if you do not have a tent repair kit.

Here is a video that shows you how to creatively reinforce a common cabin tent:

Tip #4: Add Guy Lines, Poles and Stakes

Take advantage of every guy line, pole and stake that come with your tent. Some tents will also allow for doubling up of tent poles. Many manufacturers offer replacement poles for sale that could be used for this purpose. Extra guy lines can be purchased and attached to run perpendicular to the original lines. Doubling up on stakes can also significantly increase your tent’s stability.

John Olsen

John Olsen is a seasoned adventurer with 20 years of writing, public speaking, team leadership, analytics and project management experience.

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